Become a Printmaker: Education and Career Roadmap

Aug 09, 2018

Learn how to become a printmaker. Explore the job duties and educational requirements for this field so that you can decide if a career in printmaking is right for you.

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  • 0:04 Printmakers
  • 0:56 Career Skills & Info
  • 1:39 Step 1: Earn a Degree
  • 2:43 Step 2: Apprentice
  • 3:19 Step 3: Build a Portfolio
  • 3:51 Step 4: Start Small

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Printmakers engrave images on a substance such as metal, wood, or stone before using ink and a press to transfer the image onto paper or fabric. Printmaking is considered a form of fine art, much like painting or drawing. Self-employment among fine artists like printmakers is common. Some printmakers work for fine or commercial art companies carrying out art duties related to their area of specialization.

Printmakers may be exposed to hazardous fumes from the inks they use, as well as other risks from metal, wood, or stone dust produced by the engraving process. Protective gear may be needed to do this work. Fine artists like printmakers may work unconventional schedules. While self-employed artists can create their own schedules, others may need to balance a day job with their creative work.

Career Skills & Info

Degree Level There are no formal education requirements, but a degree or apprenticeship could be necessary to learn the trade and increase career opportunities.
Degree Field Art
Key Skills Strong artistic and creative skills, manual dexterity, and the ability to work with computer design software; those who are self-employed will need good sales and marketing skills.
Salary (May 2015) $45,080 (median yearly salary for craft and fine artists)*
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 2% increase (for craft and fine artists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

In this next part of the article, we'll take a look at what type of undergraduate program can help you prepare for a career as a printmaker.

Step 1: Earn a Degree

Earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in the fine arts with an emphasis in printmaking can serve as the first step toward a career as a printmaker. Undergraduate programs typically include foundational courses in art appreciation and history, drawing, 2-dimensional design, and creative processes. Specialized coursework can give students the chance to experiment with different printmaking methods while working alongside mentors.

Success Tips:

Participate in an internship. Pursuing internship experience while still in school can give students the chance to gain valuable first-hand experience working with professionals in the field. Internships can also help students continue to build and expand on their knowledge of printmaking outside of the classroom.

Take business and marketing courses. Printmaking can lead to entrepreneurship opportunities, so enrolling in business and marketing electives will help students prepare to run their own businesses. These courses will teach students how to effectively manage a business and market their printmaking services to customers.

Step 2: Apprentice

An apprenticeship can be completed in addition to earning a degree or as an alternative to postsecondary education. An apprenticeship involves working under a professional printmaker and learning the printmaking process on the job rather than through coursework. Apprenticeships also teach students about the business end of working as a printmaker.

Success Tip:

Participate in workshops. Attending workshops held by other professionals or through art centers can help a student continue to advance his or her skills and learn new ones outside of an apprenticeship. As students compile their resumes, workshops can be added as experience.

Step 3: Build a Portfolio

A portfolio is a photographic compilation of an artist's work, and is necessary for showcasing a printmaker's talents and abilities. Aspiring printmakers typically begin compiling their portfolios during school or while completing apprenticeships, and they'll continue to expand and update them throughout their careers.

Success Tip:

Use high-quality images. A portfolio should contain only the best examples of a printmaker's work, and all photos should be taken with the best equipment possible to accurately represent the work.

Step 4: Start Small

At the entry level, printmakers may find that the tasks they're entrusted with are relatively basic, like assisting with print production and cleaning press materials. As their level of responsibility increases, printmakers may be eligible to move into management positions, they may choose to work freelance, or open their own printmaking shops.

Let's review. Printmakers are fine artists who may hold an associate's or a bachelor's degree in the fine arts. In May of 2015, craft and fine artists earned a median wage of $45,080.

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